Saturday, 2 June 2007

Holiday Reading I: Helen Waddell

Every room in the holiday cottage was lined with book-cases containing the over-flow, from his own house, of the owner's book collection. As retired teacher of history, there was a huge selection of books about history and historical figures. But literature was also, obviously, a major interest and so browsing the shelves passed a considerable amount of the time spent 'on holiday'. There were lot of book I'd read in the past - some long forgotten and re-discovered with great pleasure:HelenWaddell's Peter Abelard, which enjoyed considerable success when it was published in 1933, was one such.

As soon as I laid eyes on it, I remembered that it had been given to me to read by my father when I was 16 – perhaps, in his oblique way, he was trying to help me to understand some of the complexities of love and sex which are so puzzling to the young! Re-reading it now, at a distance of 53 years, the thing which most impressed me was how skilfulfully Waddell, scholar and academic that she was, incorporates into the story its theological and political ramifications. I seem to recall, though, that in my first reading of the book, for understandable reasons, this aspect of it impinged much less than the doomed love between Abelard and Heloise.

The following, to be added to my List of Books I Must Read, is a selection from many books dealing with Abelard himself and with Abelard and Heloise’s love story.

Michael T. Clanchy Abelard: A Medieval Life, Blackwell Pub., 1997 Marenbon, The Philosophy of Peter Abelard, Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Constant J. Mews, The Lost Love Letters of Heloise and Abelard. Perceptions of Dialogue in Twelfth-Century France, St. Martin Press, 1999 (paperback, Palgrave, 2001).
Constant J. Mews, Abelard and Heloise, Oxford University Press (Great Medieval Thinkers), 2005.
There's also a good summary of the story of Heloise and Abelard here:

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